Marc Shellard underwater

This week on ‘An Interview with WiseOceans’ we spoke with our very own Marc Shellard

Name: Marc Shellard

Role: Marine Biologist and Educator

Company: WiseOceans

Top Tip: Start early

Quick Fire Questions

1. What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation? 

I started to think about what I wanted to do for my career when I was about 13 or 14, and one day during Geography class in secondary school we were learning about climate change and I thought to myself that it would be good to have a career where I could make a positive environmental impact. I was already a big nature lover from hiking lots with my family and watching David Attenborough documentaries. I also had a particular fascination of the ocean and all the life in it! Pursuing marine conservation just felt right.

2. What steps did you take or are you currently taking to achieve your career goals?

I had the advantage of knowing that I wanted to pursue a career in marine conservation from an early age, and I started working customer service jobs from about 15 with the aim of saving up for volunteering expeditions. I did a couple of those before university that really helped set me apart from others. Getting by BSc from Southampton was a big step, and by making the most of my connections there I was able to get some scholarships and internships that were instrumental in helping me secure my first jobs in marine conservation! Even after landing these, the work didn’t stop. I got my PADI instructor last year which has really helped advance my career goals, and I’m always looking towards the next thing.

3. How did you obtain your current position? 

I’ve been trying to work for WiseOceans since I discovered their job board back when I was in university! I’ve applied for this position many times over the years and been rejected, but after getting my PADI instructors and working as a marine biologist in Egypt I applied and got this job! Never give up!! 

4. Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?  

Without a doubt, being in the water. It’s an absolute privilege to be able to witness marine life in such proximity, especially in the locations I’ve been working in. I love that this also comes with guiding guests into this underwater world and teaching them about all the amazing things that they’re seeing!

5. Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’? 

Growing my coral babies. Being able to watch the development of the coral project over time and literally see the change we are making the environment is definitely the most rewarding part of the job.

6. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?

I wish I knew how important it was to be skilled in multiple different areas. Marine Biology is a multi-faceted career and it’s incredibly important to be versatile, not just be knowledgeable about marine life. For example, I wish I had the foresight to have worked on my photography skills, my coding skills, and language skills before some of the jobs I undertook.

7. Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?

I never thought I would have to be so good at tying knots, and this job can be a lot more physical than you’d expect!

8. What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?  

Start early. Get yourself ahead of your competition and start diving as soon as possible, learn scientific diving techniques and volunteer for foundations, NGOs, whoever will take you. My advice would be to save money and try and find free volunteering, so you can save money for PADI courses and other opportunities to learn new skills. Diving gear is also very expensive. Make use of your university and personal network. Always learn new things, especially about the things you’re passionate about and share that passion with others. And don’t give up!

9. What is your favourite marine creature and why?

The cuttlefish. I’ve had some incredible experiences with these masters of camouflage, I was lucky enough to witness a pair mating while I was volunteering in Cambodia! I also love how they can hypnotise their prey!

10. What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?

I’ve had so many, it’s very difficult to choose just one. On a monitoring dive while I was working in the Maldives, I was taking photos of some of our transplanted corals when I encountered a nurse shark resting. I went to take some photos of it when I noticed it had a fishing hook caught on its mouth. I spent probably the next 20 minutes trying to remove it, the shark was struggling with the pain. After I finally removed it, the shark stayed with me and I comforted it. I felt a real connection with this animal in this moment, a truly unforgettable moment.

“Always learn new things, especially about the things you’re passionate about and share that passion with others. And don’t give up!”

Marc Shellard

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